It began as a drive to clean up Florida's voting rolls, but it's turned into a messy court fight.
Of the 2,600 voters identified by the state as potential non-citizens, hundreds have turned out to be legal voters. That's why a pro-immigrant coalition filed a lawsuit Tuesday to halt the purge.
Progressive activist Damien Filer says it overwhelmingly targets blacks and Hispanics. Under federal law, that's discrimination.
"This is the most expansive lawsuit over voting rights protection in Florida, and there's a reason for it," Filer says. "If you look at the numbers, it's clear that the people who are being targeted by this voter purge - this is not about rooting out fraud; this is about rooting out voters, and it's a very specific group of voters that are being targeted."
Governor Scott has his own definition of discrimination - allowing even one ineligible voter to, "dilute" the legitimacy of Florida's elections. And he's willing to not just defend a lawsuit, but to take one directly to the federal government.
Scott and his secretary of state, Ken Detzner, complain there's a reason the purge list isn't complete. They say Florida needs more accurate information, and it can only get it from the Department of Homeland Security, the ultimate target of the governor's suit. If that lawsuit succeeds, the one filed Tuesday might become moot.
"No matter whether it's one or a thousand, it's important that we pursue getting our voters list cleaned up and getting the assistance of homeland security to provide that information that we need," Detzner said.
But critics say it's too late to clean up the list. Under the federal voting rights act, a purge can't take place within 90 days of an election, including the Florida primary in August.
That's why, in the end, this may be less about lawsuits and more about generating controversy - the kind that could generate turnout come election day.
Florida's 67 supervisors of elections are refusing to remove voters flagged by the Scott administration as potential non-citizens. Under Florida law, it's the supervisors who have the ultimate authority over who is and isn't allowed on the voting rolls.
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